Name of Book: We’ll Paint the Octopus Red
Author: Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen
Illustrator: Pam Devito
Publisher: Woodbine House
Audience: 3-6 years
Summary: Emma is a six year old girl who is eagerly anticipating the birth of her new baby brother or sister. As she awaits his/her arrival, Emma and her father begin to imagine all of the things Emma will be able to do with her new sibling, like read books, play ball, go to a farm, go on a safari, and paint an octopus at the art festival. Once the baby (Isaac) is born, the family learns that he has Down syndrome. The day after Isaac’s birth, Emma’s dad struggles to find the words to explain Down syndrome to Emma. Upon learning Isaac has Down syndrome, Emma becomes discouraged, believing that she and her baby brother will never be able to do all of the things she had imagined. However, by the end of book—and after a sweet conversation with her father, Emma realizes that Isaac will be able to do all of those things—with some patience, a little bit of help, and a lot of love.
Literary elements at work in the story: This book is told in a forthright manner with simple language that its young audience can understand. The first half of the book is a conversation between Emma and her father, as they vividly imagine all of the things that Emma and the new baby will be able to do together. This leads up to the birth of Isaac, and Emma’s father relaying the news of Isaac’s condition to her. The second half of the book mirrors the first half of the book. It takes each activity that Emma had imagined doing with her brother, and in the same order, Emma examines them. Soon, Emma and her father discover that even with Down syndrome, Isaac will still be able to do all of the activities that they had hoped he could do
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? This book portrays a positive message about love and acceptance—and about what people with developmental delays are able to do. The family in this book is a typical young family eagerly awaiting the arrival of their new baby. Through the gift of an honest and loving conversation between a parent and a child, this family’s fears and uncertainties are names and claimed, and even overcome, as they find their way together in the face of an unexpected twist.
Theological Conversation Partners:
Genesis 1:27 (imago dei); Psalm 139 (“You are fearfully and wonderfully made.”); Romans 15:7 (“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”)
Children are a gift from God, fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image. We are called to welcome one another, and to love and accept one another, just as Christ has welcomed, loved and accepted us.
Faith Talk Questions
- At the beginning of the book, how does Emma feel about having a new baby join her family?
- What kinds of things does Emma imagine doing with the baby as he grows?
- Was Emma’s father happy or sad when Isaac was born? Why?
- How does Emma’s father help Emma?
- How does Emma help her father?
- What does this book teach us about love? About accepting others?
- Has there ever been a time that you had to learn to accept someone who might look, act or talk differently than you? What was that like?
- What does God say about loving and accepting others?
This review is written by Union Presbyterian Seminary student Catherine Monroe
We’ll Paint the Octopus Red by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.